Parshas Chukas

The Red Heifer

   The Rebbe says in Torah 55, “And the aspect of prayer is this aspect of dust and ashes mentioned regarding the Heifer, because proper prayer must be this aspect of dust and ashes.” The Rebbe is originating here the idea that the rectification that used to be done by the Red Heifer, in our generation now gets done on a daily basis and in each and every moment when one prays with kavannah. A focused, directed prayer is like undergoing death by burning, literally suffering from being burned up. When a person prays, he needs to detach himself from all extraneous thoughts and anything that might distract him. Detaching oneself from all these thoughts is the greatest form of suffering there is. A person is full of all kinds of thoughts: What will be with this? What is going to happen with that? I opened a business, I opened a factory—how am I going to pay all the expenses?
   If a person really wants to accomplish something, if he really wants to bring about all the salvations he needs, this can only come about through the aspect of dust and ashes. The aspect of dust and ashes can only be achieved through praying with kavannah, which is such a high level of mesirus nefesh that it turns a person into dust and ashes.
   The rectification that used to be done by the Heifer is today prayer with kavannah. Concentrating during prayer breaks a person up into small pieces, it burns him up. It is written that the Heifer had to be burned up, and today, the fire is achieved by praying with kavannah. The minute that a person has mesirus nefesh while saying each and every word and letter, he burns himself up with each letter of prayer, this is the true definition of mesirus nefesh. A person can be moser nefesh while giving tzedaka, he can even go out and borrow money in order to lend to others, this is truly a very high level. However, the fundamental, ultimate level of mesirus nefesh is only through long drawn out, protracted praying with intense concentration.
   The Rebbe says that a person needs to have mesirus nefesh for each and every letter and word. One shouldn’t run away from the words, but rather he should enter into the words of Shemoneh Esrei, enter inside the letters. Each letter wants to give you all the presents in the world. Each letter wants to give you all the abundance in the world. Each word grabs the person, wrapping itself around him, hugging him, saying to him, “Don’t leave me! Why are you running away? I’ll give you everything you want. Stay with me a little longer.” With each and every letter, a person can bring down all of the abundance in the world.
   The Rebbe says in Torah 80 that a person is ready to die for Kiddush Hashem, ready to sacrifice his soul for Kiddush Hashem, so when he is about to pray he should also be thinking to himself, “I am now going to let myself be killed for Kiddush Hashem.” A person needs to agree to die for every word of the prayers. He needs to say each word slowly and with kavannah. “I don’t care what will be with the next word…” Rav Moshe from Kovrin writes in Ohel Yesharim, “If you die saying the first word or the second word or the third, how will you carry on praying?” He then answers, “You’ll have a miracle. There will be the resurrection of the dead.” When a person starts to pray Shacharis, he needs to be thinking, “I am now going to die for the next three hours for Kiddush Hashem.” And with every letter he needs to be ready to die for Kiddush Hashem. Each and every second of prayer is the suffering of death. He dies for Kiddush Hashem, he burns himself up, as it is written, “For you we are dying all day long” (Tehillim 44:23).
   With each word of prayer you need to banish all your stupid thoughts, your pride, and your desire for money and not think about how you will continue praying and what will be later on. Prayer is not being involved in some kind of ceremony. It’s not standing at the bus stop. Each word should affect your entire existence. A person is just a lump of desires. He wants money and honor. If a person doesn’t pray with mesirus nefesh, then this is how he will finish his 120 years: as a lump of desire for money, pegam habris, bad thoughts, looking at things he shouldn’t. This is called living? If this is my life, then what am I living for?
   One must have mesirus nefesh in order to get into the work of prayer. One needs mesirus nefesh to disengage from his thoughts. A person thinks about money all day long, about his wife and children, about what he is going to do in an hour’s time, where he is going to go? His mind thinks a million thoughts a minute. How does a person detach himself from these millions of thoughts? For this he needs to have mesirus nefesh to die for Kiddush Hashem. When a person starts to pray he must be prepared to die! And at the same moment he needs to know that Hashem runs the world, He is the King of the world—He is the cause of everything that happens. Let Him run the world. He doesn’t need your help. A person wants to help HaKadosh Baruch Hu with his thoughts—he wants to help Him run the world. Just pray: sit quietly and let Him run the world alone.
   A person should start praying very slowly, letter by letter, word by word. He needs to die for Kiddush Hashem for every letter. Even the sinners of Israel are prepared to die for Kiddush Hashem. Even the sinners of Israel will jump into the fire before they will go against their religion, chas v’shalom. A person needs to know that praying is like jumping into the fire. If a person will agree to die for Kiddush Hashem over each and every letter, then suddenly a great light will open up before him. The Toldos Aharon writes that for an entire year he prayed with mesirus nefesh over every letter. He would fight for every letter to say it with kavannah. One day as he was saying “Ahavas Olam,” he thought, “That’s it. Now I am going to die! If I say another letter with kavannah, I will really die. And then such a great light was opened up for him that he was able to go with this light for the rest of his life.

  To be continued...


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